I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down and read an entire book. Prior to fibromyalgia, I read books all the time. It was nothing for me to start and finish a book in a few days as I had always been a fast reader with high comprehension levels.
After the onset of fibromyalgia, thought, it’s been exceedingly difficult for me to read a book.
Recently, I asked members of my online support group,
“If you were a reader before, are you still now?”
Their comments did not surprise me as they are similar to my own:
- can’t seem to focus long enough to read a few sentences in a row,
- my mind wanders, and
- I cannot mentally stay focused any longer on a book that takes any amount of concentration.
It comes and goes; some days are better than others. On bad days, I can’t manage to get through a chapter. Instead, I need to go back and reread passages several times because I either didn’t understand or couldn’t remember what I had just read.
Additionally, reading for a long time puts a strain on my eyes and they begin to hurt.
I read middle school reading level material to my students daily. Even reading out aloud has become worse; I find myself misreading words or reading one word at a time as if I’m just learning to read.
I also asked the support group members what they have found that helps them focus, and they offered various solutions:
- listen to audio books,
- play word games, card and memory games,
- read in a room with no distractions,
- read short articles/books, and
- read in a room with a sunlamp or outdoors in the sunshine.
- I switched to magazines, articles and emails in my phone,
- I listen to audio books while working out, and
- I read blogs, social media posts and research articles on fibromyalgia.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can help improve memory, mental clarity, concentration and cognitive function, and I have found that acupuncture and exercise help increase my concentration.
Also, wearing tinted non-glare glasses offer some relief of the eye strain. I was given a pair of TheraSpecs Indoor Migraine Glasses and a pair of Axon Optics as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. At the time of the review, I did not need prescription lenses, but that has since changed. Luckily for me, TheraSpecs offers a prescription lens. Read my reviews here at TheraSpecs and Axon Optics.
I also find a Reading Focus Card especially helpful. Reading Focus Cards are a tool to improve attention and focus for struggling readers. I use them with my students who struggle withfocusing while reading and find that this tool also helps me focus and to concentrate on individual words.
The most important thing I have found is that it is important to continue to read,whether it is a book in your hand or an electronic device.
Do you prefer a book in your hand or an electronic device? Which works better for you?
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll: How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 20,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in “Living Well with Fibromyalgia” and the NFMCPA “Advocate Voice.” She also works with the International Support Fibromyalgia Network.